Showing posts with label art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label art. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Creativity and Recovery

I recently gave a presentation at a conference to mental health care providers and consumers of mental health care and I was reminded of why I do this work. It focused on all of the mind, body, and spirit changes and activities we can do to create a stable foundation for our recovery. Of course, part of this included talking about how important and healing it can be to bring creativity into your treatment plan. Many people do not see creativity as an essential part of recovery, but it is. Creativity is not only a mind and body activity, but a spiritual one as well. When we create things, we tap into our inner wisdom and power. We discover how amazing we are, how we can create something so beautiful or interesting. When we create something, we are reminded of how we do contribute special things to this world, not only for ourselves but for those around us sometimes too. We also feel the power of something greater than ourselves. Maybe that is God for some of us, the Universe, greater humanity, or the Spirit of Love. Through creating something special, we feel a sense of awe and wonder at all that is in the Universe.

Many people do not understand this spiritual and important part of creativity, especially people who do not consider themselves artistic. However, every time I have asked someone to keep an open mind and just try a simple art project with me, they end up being proud of what they did. They see themselves in a new light, and they love the fact that they created something special. It makes them happy.

I was reminded of this at the conference when I asked everyone to engage in a mediative art practice inspired by the Zentangle® method. In this practice, you create patterns, any patterns you imagine, on a small sheet of paper. You do this in pen, which helps you accept things as they are. We let people know that there is no wrong way to create this art, and in so doing, this helps people learn to accept themselves as they are. Creating patterns allows your mind to slow down and become calm, which is great in all kinds of situations, especially in helping with anxiety. When people see the finished product of what they made, they see the beauty and feel a sense of accomplishment and pride.
Meditative Art Practice. Bipolar Spirit©

After everyone finished their meditative art I asked how they felt. One man, who is just about a year into recovery from mental illness, said that he never considered himself an artist, but he liked what he created. He said this simple art piece made him feel like he had worth. All of his repetitive thoughts of self-loathing, despair, and thinking he was not good enough stopped for a bit when he saw what he had made. He said the art showed him that he was not worthless. We talked about how every time those negative thoughts come to his mind, he can look at this piece of art and know he has worth, he is creative, he contributes to the world, and the world can be beautiful.

This is why I do this work. I show people different ways they have agency in their own treatment and help them find things that give them strength, hope, and purpose. People need support for all the times between visits to therapists and doctors, and they need to know they have the ability to be active in their recovery. People with mental illness need to know that something as simple as a 4"x4" piece of paper and a pen can stop a panic attack or manic episode. It can help you manage your illness enough so that you can remain in recovery rather than end up in a hospital ward.


Rev. Katie

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Scrapbooking and Mental Illness

Today I opened up the large wooden chest which houses my many scrapbooks, which has remained closed for almost two years.

For many years, scrapbooking was an integral part of my life. It was my hobby, art therapy, and spiritual practice. I even taught a class at church many years ago called "Scrapbooking as a Spiritual Practice" and was hired to make scrapbooks for other people. Yet I have let this most important part of my life fall by the wayside. It is no wonder why my bipolar disorder has gotten worse these past few years.

My lack of scrapbooking is not the only reason I am struggling so much, but it is a significant contributor. Scrapbooking was my way of lifting my spirits, lessening the negative thoughts in my mind, and helping me remember who I am and what I want out of life.

When I looked through my scrapbooks today I was shocked at how much of myself I have forgotten. I have forgotten how creative I am, how proud I am of myself, how much fun my husband, son, and I can have together, what I have accomplished, and how much I have to live for. I have felt defeated and depressed for so long and with my art form hidden away and a room too messy to scrapbook in, I have no reminder. No way to process what is hard in life, and celebrate what is good. No way to connect with the divine as art is my main mode of connecting with that which is greater than myself.

I know from experience how important all art forms are in our lives and how imagination fuels the mind. However, I think scrapbooking provides a very important medium for people with mental illness.

In my experience, when I am depressed, paranoid, or manic, I have lost touch with parts of reality. For example, when I am angry and manic, I may think my husband hates me, never loved me, and wants to control me. This is not true, yet I can not stop myself from thinking it at times. Then we fight and I might refuse to take my medicine. Things slide downhill from there. However, my scrapbooks tell me different. If I actually took the time to look at my albums I would be reminded of how much my husband loves me, how much fun we have together, and how supportive of me he is. For me scrapbooks can stop a manic or depressed episode from getting full blown.

The act of scrapbooking is also the way I process things. Through page composition, color, photos, and words I can see the reality of a situation. If you ask me today about the two half marathons I completed, I will probably tell you that I was too slow, I never trained enough, I wasn't dedicated enough, and I was a failure. However, the act of looking at the pictures, writing about what it felt like to train in the middle of the Chicago winter and what it felt like to cross the finish line with my husband and son, shows me reality. I can be proud of the work I did, how I trained, and feel like a success rather than a failure.

I know my next project is to clean up my scrapbooking room and bring back that part of my life. I also know that the first ArtCare program for mental illness I want to create for my family's foundation, the Carolyn L. Farrell Foundation for Brain Health, is a scrapbooking program. By doing these two things I hope to help heal my mind and bring that healing to others.


Rev. Katie